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February 8, 2005
Such a gentle plane ride home. Such a nice walk from the train. So good to be back in our own house, our own bed. So good to see Q.

Everybody was asking after you, I told him.

No, they weren't.

Yes, they really were. You're famous, you know. There was a sound of a little bell and then the sudden soft pounce of cat feet on the quilt. But Noodle is more famous, I'm afraid. More people asked after her than you.

Noodle walked carefully up one of Q's legs until she had reached his chest and was higher than either of us, which is always her goal. She stared down at Q, who began to rub her neck. With a halfhearted nip at his fingers for old time's sake, she settled down into a comfortable crouch and began her purr.

Noodle is still working on her purr. Each cat has his own, of course: Kate's purr was bigger than she was. Nobody has ever gotten close to What's-Her-Name to hear hers. I have heard tigers and lions purring at the zoo, a sound like the engine of a small airplane.

We think cats' purring means they're happy, but Kate was purring right up until the moment she died: there she was, on the steel examining table, so unwell, so bony and so small. She can't have been happy. But we were cuddling and stroking her, putting our faces down into her beautiful fur, telling her what a fine cat she was, and she purred and purred.

So maybe she was happy. Even though she was dying. Maybe she had a sense of completeness in her life, and maybe she was tired and knew that now she could rest. Maybe she liked feeling the same loving hands she'd felt her whole life, stroking her as she left it. Maybe that was just all right.

Perhaps her contentment came from within, after all, not from circumstance. Perhaps memory was a big part of it, a bringing forward of the good times she had lived. Perhaps our happiness can be like that to: retroactive. Our sorrows certainly are: we drag them around with us through a lifetime and don't even know it. But perhaps our blessings can stay with us, too, return in imagination and memory to bless us again. Perhaps we have some kind of a purr within when we take them out and study them, marvelling again at our good fortune in ever having had them at all.
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